The knees move while bearing a lot of weight and absorbing a lot of shock. With all the delicate structures in the joint working under these conditions, the knee can get noisy. But while some knee clicking and cracking here and there is expected, it could be cause for concern in some cases. So, should you be worried about your clicking knees? Let’s go over the common causes to find out.
What causes knee clicking
Knee clicking and cracking can be divided into two main categories: painless and painful. As you can probably guess, it’s generally the latter type of knee clicks you should be worried about.
Gas: Sometimes, knee clicking is just gas bubbles bursting. Like hearing the occasional pop from your spine when you stretch or from your knuckles when you crack them, it’s a perfectly normal thing to experience and isn’t a cause for concern.
Catching tissues: The knees can also click when tendons catch as they pass over the bony protrusions in your knee. This typically happens when you move into or out of an awkward position, causing the tendon to stretch over the protrusion and click back into place.
Overuse injuries like Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) and Patellar Tendonitis (Jumper’s Knee): With ITBS, your iliotibial band - the long stretch of tissue running on the outside of your leg from your hip to your knee - develops micro tears. Due to the damage, the band tightens, causing it to rub and click against the knee's lateral (outer) side. Jumper’s Knee is pretty much the same, but it affects the tendon connecting your kneecap to your tibia. Hence, painful clicking will usually pop up at the front of the knee.
Patellofemoral syndrome: Here, the kneecap pops out of alignment. As it no longer tracks properly, it can make contact with your lower leg bones, resulting in painful clicks.
Meniscus tear: when you damage your lateral or medial meniscus cartilage, you’ll generally experience pain and a clicking sound when you bend or extend the knee, especially under pressure (like during a squat).
Arthritis: as osteoarthritis progresses, it causes swelling, stiffness, and misalignment as your knee carriage degenerates. Clicking, crunching, and popping sounds are standard with this condition.
Can you fix clicking knees?
Yes and no. First, gas and occasional tendon catching aren’t avoidable. They’re just part of owning a functional joint. Second, when it comes to knee clicking from injury or a medical condition, reducing the clicking will just be a happy byproduct of addressing the underlying cause. And here are the steps to do that:
For Jumper’s Knee, we’d recommend the GenuTrain. The brace incorporates medical-grade compression knit to activate the muscles and boost circulation so your injured tendon has the support and nutrients it needs to heal. It also has a sewn-in patella pad to relieve pain and pressure on the patellar tendon.
For patellofemoral syndrome and ITBS, the GenuTrain P3 is the best fit. It incorporates an ITB pad to soothe the band and stop it from pulling on and clicking against the joint. It also features a specialised patella pad and cover designed to stabilise the knee cap and help it track better.
And for knee osteoarthritis and meniscus damage:
- GenuTrain A3 if your case is mild. The compression knit works with a massage pad to relieve pain and stiffness and control adduction and abduction (the inward and outward tilt of your knee) to relieve pressure on the damaged part of the cartilage.
- GenuTrain OA if it’s moderate. You’ll need its combination of compression knit and external supports to offload the joint.
- And SecuTec OA for severe osteoarthritis symptoms or meniscus damage. As a rigid, hinged knee brace, it offers the best support for serious cartilage damage.
Learn more: What’s the Best Knee Brace for Osteoarthritis?
See our collection of independent studies on the effects of Bauerfeind braces and supports: Bauerfeind Collected Studies
Stretching the various muscle groups that work to support and move your knees is a great way to relieve the stiffness that often comes with overuse and arthritis. We’d recommend:
- Downward Facing Dog for the hamstrings and calves
- Butterfly Pose for the inner thighs
- Figure 4 Stretch for the glutes and hips
- Quads Stretch
See how to do them in detail here: Top 5 Stretches to Do After Leg Day
You’ll also want to strengthen your legs to make sure damaged joint tissues get the support they need. We’d recommend:
- Squats to work the quads and glutes
- Clamshells for the inner thighs
- Hamstring Curls
- And Calf Raises
See more knee-strengthening exercises here: How to Strengthen Your Knees
See a specialist about your clicking knees
You’ll also want to talk to a clinician, especially if your pain is severe or you feel like your knee is unstable. They’ll give you a proper diagnosis and recommend the best steps for you to take to treat the underlying cause of the knee clicking.
To sum up
In most cases, knee clicking is nothing to worry about. But when the clicks come with pain and other types of irritation like redness and swelling, they could be linked to an underlying condition. If your clicks are, get a diagnosis, invest in a good brace, and start working on your knee strength and mobility.
If you require assistance selecting the right product for your needs or wearing the brace, call us on 1300 668 466 or contact us via live chat.
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